Travelling to the EU after 1 January 2021

Back in January 2019, we published an advice post, travel to the EU post-Brexit which set out our understanding of the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) in particular, questions relating to criminal records.

The ETIAS form will ask applicants to disclose convictions relating to specific offences over the previous 10 years (20 years for terrorist offences) and we would therefore expect most applicants to be automatically approved.

However, Home Secretary Priti Patel’s recent announcement (22 October) that “EU criminals could be banned from entering the UK under tighter border rules” has led to our helpline receiving calls from individuals concerned that this announcement could lead to the EU implementing similar requirements for UK citizens travelling to the EU.

EU citizens coming to the UK

The changes laid out mean that from 1 January 2021, EU citizens will be subject to the same rules that apply to non-EU citizens, namely:

  • Those sentenced to at least one year in prison will be banned from entering the UK
  • Those sentenced to less than one year in prison could also be banned, with the Home Office taking into account a person’s criminal record as well as their links to the UK, such as family members
  • Individuals who haven’t received a prison sentence could be banned from entering the UK, if
    • Their offending is persistent or causes serious harm (such as sexual offences)
    • It is decided that their presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good, or
    • They have a criminal conviction of any kind in the past 12 months and are seeking to enter the UK for the first time.

EU, EEA and Swiss citizens arriving in the UK on or before 31 December who wish to work, study or visit and want to stay in the UK after 30 June 2021 should apply to the EU Settlement Scheme upon arrival in the UK. We have information on that here.

UK nationals travelling to the EU

As it stands, there is no long-term agreement with the EU on trade and some other key areas when the transition arrangement expires. The UK faces losing access to the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS) which means it will not be possible for UK authorities to check the criminal record of an EU citizen. Likewise, should a similar system be implemented by the EU, the criminal record of UK travellers couldn’t be checked either. Unless an agreement is reached with the EU in relation to the sharing of criminal record data, the system will be reliant on an individual’s honesty when self-disclosing.

Whilst visitors from the UK could, in theory, be asked to provide a police certificate to evidence their criminal record, this would increase the cost of a family holiday and is probably unlikely to get agreement from countries in the EU who are reliant on tourism.

There are still a lot of arrangements which need to be finalised before the transition period ends at the end of this year (travel included) and we will publish more details as we become aware of them.

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Debbie Sadler